Towards a Multi-Disciplinary Approach
Edited by Amitava Krishna Dutt and Benjamin Radcliff
Chapter 2: On the Measurement and Mismeasurement of Happiness: Contemporary Theories and Methodological Directions
Anthony D. Ong* It has become clear that the phenomena referred to as human well-being is a mosaic of many component parts. This mosaic can be partitioned into a parsimonious set of dimensions, indicating measurements, that fairly completely account for individual differences among a large number of these components. The components that social scientists have been able to measure probably do not represent the entire range of experiences that constitute human well-being, but they are a goodly sample. Hundreds of different instruments have been designed to assess various features of human health and well-being. Analyses of these different instruments indicate that what is measured in common is fewer than a dozen broad dimensions indicating major kinds of positive human experience. Scientific understanding, thus, has moved away from the idea that human well-being can be well represented by a single dimension (often referred to as happiness). Well-being, to be sure, is many faceted. But to recognize that well-being has many facets is merely to start to understand it. Just what are the facets; how do they emerge in culture and in individuals? What are their functions? The volume makes it clear that well-being involves deep insight into the meaning and purpose of life. Yet well-being is not merely knowledge and comprehension of the moral imperatives of the good life, even as such insight and comprehension must be part of it. The moral authority of human well-being must extend beyond that needed to ensure the continuance of any particular group; it must...
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